Alaska launches pilot training program to help address shortage

To combat a global shortage of pilots, Alaska is offering to cover $25,000 in training costs and help secure low-interest loans to pay the rest.

SEATTLE – The world is short of pilots. The United States needs 10,000 new pilots. Alaska Airlines and its regional subsidiary Horizon, need 2,000 new pilots over the next four years.

Boeing has been warning of a pilot shortage for at least a decade. And yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role. To stay afloat, airlines have offered buy-out and retirement packages to reduce the number of all kinds of employees, including pilots.

On the supply side, becoming an airline pilot is expensive. The cost of training enough to obtain not only a commercial pilot certificate, but also the qualifications required of a commercial flight school, can approach $100,000.

“In the past, a lot of students would have gotten their licenses and grades blind and then hoped for something to happen in the future,” said Nik Kresse at Hillsboro Aero Academy in Portland, Oregon, a great flight school that is now partnering with Horizon and Alaska to change that.

The school has 95 aircraft and also trains in Redmond, Oregon. Horizon’s base of operations is located at Portland International Airport. Now, Hillsboro Aero Academy will train pilots to fly directly to Horizon Airlines, and after sufficient additional time and experience, to the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines jet.

“I think there’s something to be said for the path that’s being created,” Kresse said.

The partnership between the flight school and the airline is called Ascend Pilot Academy, and Alaska will cover $25,000 of the cost of obtaining those licenses and arrange low-interest loans for the rest.

The plan is for graduates to have jobs when they complete their training, and a job as a co-pilot with Horizon can bring in $85,000 a year, according to the airline. The training to get to this point will take about three and a half years, after three more auditions to become a captain at Horizon, after about six and a half years a student would end up as a captain on an Alaska Airlines jet.

“We’re making it available to a lot of people like me who couldn’t have afforded it,” said Carlos Zendejas, who grew up in Del Rio, Texas, could only dream of becoming a pilot years ago. decades. He became one, but only through a path through the military that was once the main path to the cockpit of a commercial aircraft. He is now vice president of flight operations at Horizon, after years in the cockpit of Alaska.

Those interested in the program can click here for more information.

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